The first appointment for the pure sprinters in the Tour de France came during the second stage from Visé to Tournai, Belgium. The Lotto Belisol team for André Greipel turned out to be the dominant train over the final kilometres. Eventually Greg Henderson delivered Greipel perfectly into the final hectometres but the German fell half a wheel short of world champion Mark Cavendish (Sky). Right after crossing the line 'the gorilla' shouted out his frustration with a famous four-letter word. Little later Greipel congratulated Cavendish by giving him a tap on the shoulder.
"I'm extremely disappointed," the German sprinter said. "The team delivered me perfectly. Cavendish was strong, so my congratulations to him. Too bad we had to do all the work," Greipel said in a first reaction right after crossing the finish line.
A little later, while cooling down on the rollers, Greipel still seemed frustrated. "What can you say. Of course I'm disappointed but that's racing. We wanted to compete in every sprint and I think the guys did a great job. It didn't work out. I just can keep on trying," Greipel said.
Winner Cavendish explained during the post-race press conference that he started his sprint a little bit too late, not having much left to beat Greipel. The latter from his side didn't feel he had to change much to the team's sprint tactics.
"No, I just have to cross the finish line first, that's what I can do better. I had to go. It was a difficult sprint. It was a headwind and slightly uphill. It was the first bunch sprint and there's a couple of more to come. We want to reach our goal and win a stage."
When asked about what he felt was positive about the stage Greipel referred to the lead-out from his team mates. "I think everybody saw it. We were able to make the difference between winning or losing. We have the most horsepower in the bunch so we wanted to make a lead-out train and it worked out. That's what we've done."
Lotto Belisol director sportif Herman Frison copied that and said his riders rode a near-perfect sprint.
"He was beaten by the better sprinter today, the world champion. It's not like he's been beaten by three to four bike lengths. It was a man to man duel with a finish line jump to make the difference. This was good for cycling and the Tour. Cav' was where he had to be and it's his quality that he was able to get Greipel his wheel in the chaos behind him," Frison said.
"We're not going to change anything and keep doing what we have to do," Frison added when asked about the team's tactics. "This morning we decided not to put energy in the intermediate sprint either. We wanted to go all out for the victory. We're only two stages into the race and anything can still happen for the green jersey. He took a lot of points with his second place," Frison concluded.
There's little chance that pure sprinters like Greipel will be able to mix in at the end of Tuesday's stage from Orchies to Bologne-sur-Mer as there are four testing climbs in the finale including one towards the finish line. They'll have to wait for the following stage to Rouen to receive a second opportunity.